Hailing from Cavan, a small town in Ireland and with a tender average age of 16, The Strypes are beginning to tear into a weary music business brimming with mediocre pop and rehashed indie. Bringing their four piece vintage set to Nottingham’s Bodega Social Club, the foursome look and sound as though you have jumped into a time machine and landed in late 1950’s London. Clad in tight suits and ties, with Beatles inspired hairdos and tearing through songs by the likes of Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry, the Strypes have been criticised by many a muso snob as lacking authenticity, being wannabes and ‘doing nothing new’. Yes, the band’s set is littered with covers, but the few original songs laced into a tight set sound fresh and in-keeping with their own sixties revisited form.
The hype surrounding the Strypes pre-gig had me apprehensive, expecting a youthful fan-girl crowd, but I could not have been further from the truth. Standing towards the back of the venue, and crammed in like sardines, the gathering in front of me compiled of older generations, national journalists and many intrigued Midlanders. Tickets were going for three times their face value for a gig that had sold out immediately, so expectations were running high, and strolling onto stage, the band looking fresh faced as they begin to rattle through a set of ferocious rhythm and blues.
Their talent is absolutely astonishing. Bassist Pete O’Hanlon has such dexterity in his young hands that at one point I wondered whether bones actually existed in his supple fingers, his confidence oozing as he rifles up and down the long neck of his mirror-shined bass. Channelling his inner Wilko Johnson is pouting guitarist Josh McClorey who slashes away at his trusty guitar with astronomical musicianship; dancing about the small stage, working a crowd old enough to be his grandparents. There’s a beautiful moment where he stretches a note and holds it, looking startled at his own ability, pauses, returns to the note and then crashes into another ridiculous riff. Frontman Ross Farrelly has a blues varnished growl and a coolness well beyond his 15 years and makes a mockery of the much maligned myth that these boys are merely pretty pretenders.
Alongside obscure covers are some original gems; “I’m No Good” is raw and shocks old school blues into the now, making something aged seem crisp and sharper than ever. The band swap instruments throughout their quick fire set and build up to their bubbling climax; an exquisite cover of the standard “You Can’t Judge A Book By It’s Cover”. I leave the venue completely baffled at how on earth these lads, five years my minor are so steeped in such obscure musical standards and how they have channeled their love for fifties and sixties rhythm and blues into something new. As we leave, we see Chris Difford, of Squeeze, seemingly mentoring the youngsters, and their support from the high and mighty chords of rock – old and new, which will help propel them into the dizzy heights of fame and fortune.
With a task akin to reinventing the wheel, the Strypes may struggle initially to overcome their doubters, but when they make it, (not, if they do), we’ll look back on that wet Friday night as a piece of ‘I was there’ musical history.
…Adam is listening to Gabriel Bruce – ‘Perfect Weather’